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The 6G week | Into the Digital Future

Subhankar Pal
1 June 2023

In 2022, a majority of operators moved to standalone (SA) 5G networks, ushering in the millimeter wave (mmWave) era. Preliminary work on 6G has been underway in every major country, and it includes exploring expanding into terahertz (THz) spectrum. Besides providing support for even more traffic, THz spectrum also can deliver higher speeds, granular positioning and other capabilities that are difficult or impossible with 5G and existing bands.

Each new generation of technology is an opportunity to overcome the shortcomings of its predecessors and stake out new use cases. 6G is no exception to that rule, including for how it will —finally — bring true broadband speeds to even the most remote, sparsely populated areas. For both the unserved and underserved, spaceborne and airborne networks offer hope — and not just in the form of traditional satellite internet services.

The key to finally bringing true broadband services to every person everywhere is putting 6G cellular technology aboard LEO, MEO and GEO satellites and high-altitude platform systems (HAPS), transforming them into base stations capable of serving even the most remote places, such as the middle of the ocean.

True real-time interaction between remote locations is an ultimate enabler for digital industry and society, and is what 5G is aimed for, and 6G will achieve through embedding intelligence at different levels of the communication network. Achieving high performance and ultra-large coverage with an extremely low energy footprint will be a key characteristic of 6G networks and will be a key enabler for Intelligent Industry.

A year ago, Capgemini launched a collaboration with King’s College London focused on building new architecture frameworks as well as developing trusted and human centered AI systems for 6G networks. The leading-edge research project explored the possibilities opened up by 6G as a key lever for Intelligent Industry with a significantly lower energy footprint. As part of this ongoing association with King’s College, we organized Capgemini’s first ever 6G week from 24 to 28 April 2023.

The week started with 6G focused virtual event titled “Connected Futures: Advances in 6G Roadmap” with some of industry’s eminent experts from academia and enterprises alike. In this session, we covered topics like 6G, Mesh Networks, Wireless Native AI, 5G-Advanced, 6G for industries, sustainable networks and discuss on how 6G can be the next big thing.

This session helped us get an ‘outside in’ perspective of how the market perceives 6G and where are the investments coming in from enterprises and how will the current technologies play a role in the next generation of mobile networks.

“As the 6G research is gaining excitement globally, the Capgemini and King’s co-organized workshop was an excellent opportunity to share our thoughts on 6G architecture in achieving the vision of true digitalization and automation, with the wider telecom research eco-system. The participation from both industry and academic colleagues brought together a diverse thought leadership on 6G networks, AI and the interconnects of communication and compute world. For us, at King’s, it was delightful to work with Capgemini’s team to bring together the esteemed speakers, but also to share and learn”

Toktam Mahmoodi, Professor of Communications Engineering at King’s College London

We do understand that achieving these goals for 5G and 6G will take considerable work. Emerging use cases and devices demand higher network capacity, leading to increasingly dense infrastructure. Although the 5G NR standard is more energy efficient per gigabyte than 4G standards, the proposed 5G use cases and new spectrum bands will require many more mobile sites, outstripping potential energy efficiencies. The good news is that these challenges can and will be overcome, meaning a fast, open and greener future in 2022 and beyond.

“Such gatherings are exceptional opportunities to congregate academia and industry to craft a definitive course towards the realization of 6G networks. The workshop encompassed essential technology elements, including intelligent and zero-touch networks, sustainable and resilient networks, potential use case scenarios and commercial aspects of 6G. I am optimistic that this workshop will serve as a catalyst for future multidisciplinary collaborations that will expedite the advancement of the envisioned 6G ecosystem.”

Hosein Nikopour, Senior AI Research Scientist at Intel Labs

While the network equipment providers emphasized on architecture innovations that will be essential to drive 6G, chip manufacturer organizations stressed on need of device side innovations for improved user experience in 6G.

“There seems to be a consensus that data and AI will play a major role in 6G networks not only as applications but as inherently part of the network performance. In that context the softwarisation of the networks, the use of digital twins and the need for in-network computation will become essential as the enablers for new paradigms.”

Marie-José Montpetit, Academic Consultant at the Iowa State WiCI Center and ARA Wireless collaborator

We concluded the event with a panel discission, which explored the technologies and use cases that will contribute to shaping 6G beyond the hype, the risks to be considered while implementing the, and how 6G can be operationally more sustainable.

6G lab 1

The week ended with the launch of our first research lab in Capgemini dedicated to 6G research and innovation, at our Gurgaon, India center that was unveiled on 28 April 2023. Using the lab’s superior research facility, Capgemini aims to demonstrate 6G thought leadership in partnership with academia and industry partners. Refer to the press release for further details.

As we continue to invest in 6G advancements at Capgemini, it is abundantly clear that the onus is on the industry to lead harmonization efforts on 2030 system vision, technology trends and requirements in international forums such as ITU-R, GSMA and NGMN. 3GPP, the ITU and other standards bodies are studying how satellites, HAPS and drones can be brought into the realm of 6G networks. All of that work suggests 6G has a bright future!

6G lab 2